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CYA: How to Stop Micromanaging

I was speaking about giving away authority at a workshop recently, when one participant offered her justification for being a "That's a great theory," she said. "But when it's my butt on the line, you can bet that I'm going to micromanage." Her statement highlights a leadership paradox: managers know they should not micromanage, but empowering others conflicts with our natural instinct to protect ourselves against things we fear-things like rejection, failure, embarrassment, or retaliation. Most managers embrace the concept of empowerment, but the perceived emotional danger of letting go overcomes many others. So some managers, it appears, prefer to live with the stigma of being a micromanager rather than risk looking bad if their empowered employees fail.

If you demonstrate micromanagement tendencies, you too might argue that it's justified. But by altering your internal beliefs, you can avoid micromanaging behavior. Surprisingly, it is the expectations micromanagers have for themselves that must change. Leaders who consider themselves highly effective are more apt to view all workers as teachable and capable. Managers who attribute their employees' accomplishments to their own success as leaders will probably help their workers grow. You must believe, regardless of your perceptions of each employee's potential, in your own abilities to teach and inspire.

Freely giving away their authority requires micromanagers to set high expectations for their employees. But more importantly, they must demand greater things of themselves.
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